Being such an influential designer, what inspires you in your daily work?
I am inspired by many things from outside and from inside, having a busy mind and a vivid imagination. But inspiration is never directly translated. I prefer to stay close to the model, my ideas evolve with the design process. My creativity lies in my eyes and in my hands. I have a well-trained instinct, which helps me decide on fabrics, cuts and proportions. From all the data I receive every day, I conclude which direction to take and which to avoid.
When you managed your company, it was like running on tracks – very successful, company growth every year, fashion boutiques all over the world. Still, in 1999 you decided to sell your company to the Prada Group. Wasn’t this quite difficult to deal with?
I don’t like to brood on past issues, it is much more rewarding to look forward. But it is never easy to give up something you created from scratch and nourished with your ideas.
The year 2012 marked your comeback – almost 40 years after founding the company – as the Creative Director. How does it feel to be in charge again of designing products bearing your own name? Was it more like a homecoming or a completely new task?
It was very much like coming home. I feel happy and invigorated to be able to design under my name again. Nevertheless, the task is new. Since I am no longer the owner, the decision-making process takes longer.
Next to ready-to-wear fashion, accessories and fragrances Jil Sander is also an eyewear brand. What gets you excited about eyewear?
First of all, eyewear serves a function, and I like to find aesthetically satisfying solutions for practical necessities. Also, eyewear is a formidable accessory of quiet distinction. My work is never overdesigned, I prefer to achieve a lower key, sophisticated aura. Eyewear is a wonderful means to shield and enwrap the personality.
Your licensee is Marchon, one of the biggest players in the industry. Please give us the lowdown on how the design process takes place. In how far are you personally involved in the design process?
Naturally, the technical conditions are a given, but regarding the look and the materials of the eyewear, I have been involved in every step of the process. The prototypes went back and forth until the result was satisfying to everyone.
You are renowned worldwide for your reduced fashion designs. Does your eyewear tune in to minimalist simple designs as well?
Simple, when it comes to surplus/gratuitous decoration, yes. But I don’t think that reduction necessarily leads to small sizes or simple solutions. Reduction to me means concentration on the essentials. But the essentials in eyewear can be very complex.
What is the most distinctive “asset” of your new collection?
I was looking for something like the golden ratio in eyewear design, a harmonious, almost classical form. And, as you know, in glasses, every millimeter counts. We used new techniques in material development, the glasses are lightweight. And the colors are subtle, too.
What kind of people do you have in mind as wearers of the eyewear you design?
I don’t think of groups of people, I consider facial structures and their variations. I like glasses to blend in harmoniously with the face.
How does Jil Sander stand out from collections by other labels?
There is a clear Jil Sander signature on all levels, not least in the unconditional quality and integrity of the technical execution.